Phantom limbs and virtual reality

Scientists from Manchester University (Murray and his team [1][2]) have proven that patients suffering pain in their inexsistent phanton limbs can relieve pain by using visualisation. Using different techniques, from a simple mirror to advanced virtual reality systems where the patient is able to even control the virtual limb, researchers have proven that visualisation can help the brain to relieve the ‘phantom’ pain.

Somehow, the brain recalls sensory information coming from the amputated limb, and this causes conscious pain in the patient. These results suggest that self-consciousness mechanisms are affected by the amputation and the brain cannot automatically adapt its internal model.

[1] C. D. Murray, E. Patchick, S. Pettifer, T. Howard, J. Kalkarni, and C. Bamford. Investigating the efficacy of a virtual mirror box in treating phantom limb pain in a sample of chronic sufferers.International Journal of Disability and Human Development, page to appear, 2007.

[2] C. D. Murray, S. Pettifer, T. Howard, E. Patchick, J. Kalkarni, and C. Bamford. The treatment of phantom limb pain using immersive virtual reality: three case studies. Disability and Rehabilitation, page to appear, 2007.

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